RACS clients are people from diverse backgrounds, most of whom may not speak English and who are survivors of torture. They may remain traumatised and vulnerable but yet they are the most courageous people we’ve ever met. Our clients may be in immigration detention or in the community.
Clients typically come from countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Ghana, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Turkey and Zimbabwe, as well as stateless Palestinians. You can view the whole list of countries our clients come from at our Annual Reports Section.
What they all have in common is that they all want to be safe.
We serve people who come from every walk of life. We admire their courage and strength. Their stories need to be heard.
We want to share with you the story of Abdul*. When he was only three years old, his father was taken by the Taliban and they never heard from him again.
Abdul’s remaining family tried to move from their home in Afghanistan to Pakistan, but the authorities would not allow them to live there lawfully and the children were not able to go to school. They were forced to live there undocumented and his mother struggled to support her five children. When she became seriously ill, 8 year old Abdul was forced to become the breadwinner.
Abdul and another young boy worked together at a market trying to sell fruit from a cart they bought from a marketplace. In 2012, Abdul and his friend became the targets of violence. They were caught in the violence against the Hazara people, when their Mosque was attacked during Muharram. The shootings surrounding Abdul’s house were becoming more frequent.
Abdul decided he had to leave. He made his way to Thailand and Malaysia before he was caught and detained for a number of months. Once released, he decided to keep moving through to Indonesia. He heard there that if you tell the authorities of your age, you are taken to a camp and not able to leave until turning 18. He found another Afghan family who let him pretend to be their son for his safety. He was able to then make his journey to Australia. Once arriving in Australia, Abdul’s boat was taken to Christmas Island and he was kept on a navy ship for a few days. At age 15, he entered Christmas Island detention centre, where he remained for approximately 18 months before moving to a mainland centre, and then to community detention.
Our role at RACS was to assist Abdul, advocating for him to not be transferred to Nauru. After that win, we then advocated for him to be released from detention, and be afforded the protection he so humbly deserves.
Now we are in the process of helping him apply for his visa to remain in Australia. He has dreams of becoming a Nurse and hopes to secure a scholarship to study at a regional university.
On Abdul’s boat, another boy, Murtaza*, of the same age and background was sent to Nauru, where he has been since September 2013. Murtaza was only able to attend school whilst in the detention centre. He cannot attend school on Nauru and lives in constant fear, having been attacked recently whilst riding his motorbike.
Our role at RACS is to advocate for Murtaza’s return to Australia and to give voices to the other boys he lives with and their terrible experience of no education, sub par housing and a volatile untenable future.
Sharing the camp with Murtaza, a young girl, Layla* of the same age as Abdul, was also initially sent to Nauru, but was returned to Australia for medical treatment with her mother. Layla’s mother became seriously mentally ill and needed to come to Australia for urgent psychiatric treatment following serious levels of self harm.
Our role at RACS is to advocate for Layla and her mother to remain in Australia, give voice to their vulnerabilities, appalling treatment and lack of medical care received on Nauru.
Layla asked that her mother be treated in Sydney as her uncle lives here. Layla’s Uncle Yousef had managed to leave Syria and arrive in Australia by plane. He arrived in early 2012, applied for protection and consequently was granted a permanent protection visa. Despite the family all fleeing the same war, each faced very different treatment due to their mode of arrival.
Our role at RACS is to assist Yousef in applying for the family he left behind to join him here in Australia. He didn’t have the money at the time to send his family with Layla and her mother and so they waited, hoping Yousef would find another way.
What we learn at RACS every day is that for every Abdul, Murtaza, Layla and Yousef, there are hundreds of people still in detention, detained offshore and in the community, not to mention the thousands of family members they have all left behind.
Our role at RACS is to listen, discover, assist, advocate and serve some of the most vulnerable, yet courageous people in the world. For people seeking safety in Australia, RACS is the difference between staying and going.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy
(Images (c)2017 RACS/Renee Dixson)